Tag Archive | Gratefulness

Beware of the Counterfeits, Embrace the True

In my walk with Christ, I’ve noticed that the world often presents us with alternatives, counterfeit versions of the spiritual disciplines we are taught in God’s Word.

For example, God’s Word clearly teaches the key to success in life is to meditate on and then obey God’s Word. Joshua 18 says, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” The world promotes other types of meditation that have nothing to do with God or His Word.

The Bible also calls us to the discipline of giving thanks in all situations. One well known Scripture that teaches this is 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The world likewise acknowledges the value of giving thanks.

Earlier this week, I received a video on a secular app I use to help me in my weight management entitled “Gratitude Meditation.” It basically combined the two spiritual disciplines of meditation and giving thanks, but in a strongly distorted way. And it opened my eyes to the truth that while the world sees value in the practicing gratitude, it isn’t the kind of gratitude we as Christians are called to express.

The world’s idea of gratitude often begins with looking inward and is little more than a form of positive thinking. It looks at blessings, but fails to see their true source.

Christ-centered gratitude begins with looking upward. It is centered in the unchanging character of our God and the promises of His Word. A life of gratitude without Christ misses the mark – it is still empty and purposeless, because it leaves God out of the picture.

It’s much healthier spiritually to turn our focus on Christ-centered gratitude. The best description I’ve found of Christ-centered gratitude comes from Bible teacher Kay Arthur.

“God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks – not because of the situation but because of the One who directs and rules over it.”

Therefore today I am grateful for…

☆ 1. Christ’s provision for today’s needs, even when I’m not sure how the overwhelming needs ahead of me will be met.

☆ 2. The strength I have in Christ to do the things He has called me to accomplish today, even in the midst of my physical weakness.

☆ 3. His grace and loving care, even in the midst of a day of physical and emotional pain.

Christ-centered gratitude acknowledges the reality of what we are walking through, but it also acknowledges and gives thanks to the Lord as our help in the midst of the storm.

Remember, Christ-centered gratitude is possible because no matter what you are going through, Philippians 2:13 reminds us we are not left to our own resources, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

 

A New Month, A New Topical Bible Reading Plan

For a couple years, I have been using the monthly topical Bible reading plans published by Rachel Wojo, and this month’s plan Perfect Peace: Planting My Eyes on Jesus is especially appropriate to where I’ve been walking in recent months. My desire is to do at least one blog post per week during June sharing some of the things I’m learning from this study. If anyone is interested in doing this study with me, here is Rachel’s June Bible reading plan.

In the midst of a time of trying to find answers to explain recent irregularities in my blood tests, walking in God’s peace has been a challenge. It’s been a daily battle not to give in to fear. Last July and again in February of this year, my alkaline phosphatase levels have been elevated. My doctor suspected this was due to a new bone problem, so she ordered a full body bone scan with contrast. The test revealed no new bone disease that would explain the lab results.

Then, she felt the next most probable problem was disease or obstruction in the liver or pancreas. So I had a barium and IV contrast CT-scan done of my liver and pancreas done last Friday. This was especially scary, because my doctor had mentioned the possibility of cancer. But again, I was given a clear report of health from this test. This was a huge relief, but at this point we still do not know what is behind the elevated levels.

Next Friday, I’ll be taking the next step in the diagnostic process, an appointment with my gastroenterologist to discuss the results of the CT-scan in more detail and to schedule a colonoscopy. And the following Friday, I’m scheduled for a bone density test, which my doctor said is due and should be done to rule out the one other possible area of trouble with my bones.

Unlike most of the health issues I’ve faced in the past, this new one isn’t causing any outward problems. But there has been a battle – a spiritual battle in my mind against fear. So this month’s topical study on the peace we find in God’s presence is especially fitting.

Day 1: Psalm 29:1-11 (I’m using ESV throughout this study unless otherwise noted)

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalms‬ ‭29:3-4

‭‭The voice of the Lord – and His very presence – is above the waters that threaten our lives. This reminds me of the first part of Isaiah 43:2.

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…”

Psalm 29 ends with these words. They are a great reminder that God is still on His throne, that He has been and continues to be in charge.

“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever. May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!” Psalm ‭29:10-11‬ ‭

Father, today I remind myself that these latest health problems I’m facing haven’t taken You by surprise. You are above these choppy waters I’m going through, still reigning on Your throne of grace and love. Thank You for a doctor who won’t let this go until she rules out all of the major issues that could be causing this irregularity in my blood work. Thank You that the two most likely and most serious problems have now been ruled out. Continue to teach me how to take hold of Your peace and rest in You as I walk through this storm in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Being Thankful Is a Choice

Matthew Henry, the eighteenth-century Puritan preacher and Bible scholar whose commentary is still widely used today, told a story of a time when he was attacked and his wallet taken. Knowing that it was his duty to give thanks in everything, he meditated on this incident and recorded the following in his diary:

“Let me be thankful, first, because he never robbed me before; second, because although he took my purse, he did not take my life; third, because although he took all I possessed, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

God calls us to give thanks in every situation we face, and in these words Matthew Henry was obeying this command. The “attitude of gratitude” is a clear command and expectation of God. Intentional gratitude causes use to see even the hardest of circumstances from a God-centered perspective.

There are several benefits of expressing gratefulness.

  • It pleases the Lord, who has instructed us to give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • It brings us closer to God. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!”
  • It changes our perspective of what we are walking through.
  • It motivates us to look for God’s purpose in our circumstance.
  • It is the path that leads to joy and peace.

Are you facing one or more turbulent, unsettled situations in your life? Take time today to practice intentional gratitude. Following Matthew Henry’s example, find at least three things you can choose to give thanks to God for in the midst of your circumstances.

True Love Bible Reading Challenge: Week Two Summary

During this second week of February that ends with the day set aside to celebrate love, let’s remember the source of true love. God’s love for and through us is the True Love that has the power to change lives.

Day 8: Zephaniah 3:17-20

Life on earth is filled with battles, but these verses from the prophet Zephaniah remind us that God doesn’t leave us on our own to win the war. He Himself is the Mighty Warrior who saves us because He takes great delight in us.

Day 9: John 13:34-35

Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? There’s one way to know for sure. Jesus said, “everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Love is shown in many ways. But one way of allowing God’s love to flow through us to those around us is by praying for one another. Interceding for others, lifting their needs up to our heavenly Father, is a concrete demonstration of our love.

Day 10: Psalm 136:1-13

One characteristic of God’s love, whether we are the receivers or the conduit through which it flows to others, is that it keeps on going and never quits. It is everlasting, perpetual, and there is always more left over.

Day 11: Psalm 136:14-26

When we recognize the depth of God’s love for us, it will do two things in our lives. Our hearts will be filled to overflowing with praise to this One whose love for us is beyond our comprehension. And that love, too great for us to contain it, will flow out of us to those around us.

Day 12: Deuteronomy 10:12-15

This passage, addressed to the Jewish people but equally applicable to those Gentiles who are now “ingrafted branches” (Romans 11:17) through our relationship with Jesus Christ, gives five things that the Lord our God asks of us as His people. We are to fear or revere Him, honoring Him as our Lord to Whom we will one day give account for how we have lived. We are to walk in obedience to him, serve Him with all our heart and soul, and observe His commands which have been given for our own good. And we are to love Him with all our heart and soul, which gives us the proper motivation to do the other four things.

Day 13: Psalm 5:7-12

Father, this morning I’m grateful for the privilege of coming into Your presence. I rejoice in You. Lead me today, my Lord, in Your righteousness. Make Your way straight before me. I love You and take refuge in You.

‭‭Day 14: Psalm 25:1-10

Lord, I’m so grateful that You don’t leave me on my own to figure life out. By Your Spirit, You guide me in Your truth and teach me how to walk. All Your ways toward me are loving and faithful. You are good and upright, a God of mercy and love.

Jesus Christ is the Word

Have you even had your plan all mapped out, and suddenly God spoke to your heart and brought a change of direction. That’s what happened to me, as I was finishing a Christian novel I have been reading and a verse of Scripture jumped out at me from the closing pages. The quote that caught my attention said, “The true Light who enlightens every man was coming into the world.”

This probably caught my eye because in addition to writing these daily Advent devotions during December, I have been doing The Light Bible Reading Challenge by Rachel Wojo, reading verses every day about Jesus being The Light. But I didn’t remember ever seeing Jesus referred to as “the true Light that enlightens every man” so I decided to look up the verse. I learned that this unique wording was from the Berean Literal Bible translation of John 1:9, part of a well known passage that speaks of Jesus as the Word. And I realized that I had failed to include one very important name of Jesus in my plan: The Word.

John 1:1-5, the prologue of John’s gospel, establishes some important truths about Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” ‭‭John‬ ‭1:1-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

These words that begin the Gospel of John give one of the clearest statements in Scripture of who Jesus is. They clearly say that Jesus (the Word) was present in the beginning, before the creation described in detail in Genesis 1. They say He was with God and He also was God, truly God and yet distinct from the Father. In other words, they identify Jesus as a part of the Godhead. They also identify Him as Creator. They tell us life is found in Him. And finally, they remind us that He is the light that overcomes darkness. This true Light who enlightens every man had now come into the world in human flesh.

When John 1:1 speaks of Jesus as The Word, the Greek word used is Logos. Logos specifically means an utterance or a statement, a spoken word.

The Gospel of John was written to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. It’s original readers were new believers in Jesus Christ and non-Christians who were seeking to know God, both Jews and Greeks.

By using the word logos, John was pointing his Jewish readers back to the Old Testament where the “Word of God” is associated with God’s revelation. And for his Greek readers, he was using a familiar word they associated with being a bridge between the infinite and eternal God and the material universe.

I am very grateful that God has given us His written Word, the holy Scriptures that reveal to us God’s existence, nature and character and that are a guidebook on how to live the Christian life. But I am even more grateful that God has given us the Living Word, His Son Jesus Christ, who came into the world to not only be a bridge between fallen mankind and Almighty God, but to also be the true light that enlightens every man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus, the Son of God

Jesus is called the Son of God in many Old and New Testament passages, and I decided today to cover several of these descriptions together. As the Son, Jesus is:

  • The only begotten Son of God – begotten of God through the Holy Spirit and not a human father (Psalm 2:7; Hebrews 1:5)
  • God’s beloved Son – emphasizing His relationship of love with the Heavenly Father (Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5)
  • The radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus affirmed the importance of this truth when asked by Caiaphas the High Priest if He was the Christ, the Son of God. He answered “you have said so,” confirming this as truth, even though He understood this claim would be considered blasphemy and worthy of a death sentence.

And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.‘ ” Matthew‬ ‭26:63-65‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Another important Scripture concerning Jesus as the Son of God is found in Hebrews 5:

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” Hebrews‬ ‭5:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If Jesus were not the Son of God in human flesh, we would still be lost in our sin. Jesus – fully God and fully man, perfect in both aspects of His nature – is the only One who could pay the penalty for our sin and restore us to fellowship with the Most High God. He offers salvation as a gift, and the evidence we are a part of His family is our desire to obey Him because we love Him.

Don’t fail to take advantage of this gift that has been provided to us through His grace and accessed by us through faith. I’m grateful that I took this step over forty-five years ago, and in spite of all of the difficulties I’ve faced since then I have no regrets concerning that decision.

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

 

During the Christmas season, our focus is usually on the manger not the cross, but it’s important that we not lose sight of why Jesus came. Today’s name of Jesus reminds us of the fact that He died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins. But He is no longer on the cross – or even in the tomb. He is alive!

Let’s take a look at the setting where Jesus spoke these words about Himself. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, we learn of the special relationship Jesus had with Mary and Martha. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and had stayed in their home in the village of Bethany. The passage in John 11 that includes this name of Jesus tells us Lazarus was also a friend of Jesus and His disciples.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’…  ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep’”  John‬ ‭11:3, 11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

But in spite of receiving word from Mary and Martha about Lazarus’ illness, Jesus did not immediately go to him. Since Jesus always did what He knew to be the will of the Father, this was apparently by God’s leading. Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 11:14-15 explain at least one purpose behind the delay.

So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.‘”

‭Verse 17 tells us what happened during the purposeful delay.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

When Martha hears Jesus has arrived, she greets Him with some solemn words (verses 21-22).

“’Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’”

This is the setting in which these well known words were spoken.

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?‘”John‬ ‭11:23-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

When Jesus spoke to Martha that day, He was telling her that a miracle was about to take place. Her beloved brother would be raised from the dead. But the meaning of these words goes beyond that. In essence, Jesus was saying, “The whole power to restore, impart and maintain life resides in Me.”

Today, I am grateful that Jesus died for my sins. But I’m also grateful that He is my Resurrected Lord. If you don’t know Him as your sin-bearer and Living Lord, don’t let Christmas pass without coming to Him for salvation. Confess you are a sinner, believe in His finished work on the cross, receive His forgiveness, and surrender your life to Him as Lord. Your eternity depends on this decision, and Christmas is the perfect time to make it.